A member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces sits next to a destroyed car, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 18, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

Lviv/Kyiv: Russia said on Monday it had hit hundreds of military targets in Ukraine overnight, destroying command posts with air-launched missiles, while authorities in the western city of Lviv, which has escaped heavy bombardment, said a missile attack killed six.

The Russian defence ministry said in a statement it had destroyed 16 Ukrainian military facilities in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions and in the port of Mykolayiv, in the south and east of the country.

It added that the Russian air force had launched strikes against 108 areas where Ukrainian forces were concentrated and Russian artillery struck 315 Ukrainian military targets overnight.

Driven back by Ukrainian resistance in the north, the Russian military has refocused its ground offensive in the two eastern provinces known as the Donbas, while launching long-distance strikes at other targets, including the capital, Kyiv.

It is now trying to take full control of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which has been besieged for weeks and which would be a huge strategic prize, linking territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the east with the Crimea region Moscow annexed in 2014.

Ukrainian authorities said missiles struck military facilities and a car tyre service point in Lviv, which is just 60 km from the Polish border. Lviv mayor Andriy Sadoviy said seven people were killed and 11 were wounded. The blast shattered windows of a hotel housing Ukrainians evacuated from elsewhere in the country, he added.

Russia denies targeting civilians and rejects what Ukraine says is evidence of atrocities, saying Ukraine has staged them to undermine peace talks. Moscow calls its action, launched almost two months ago, a special military operation to demilitarise Ukraine and eradicate what it calls dangerous nationalists.

Cars destroyed amid Russia's attack on Ukraine are seen, after they were collected from different places, in Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 18, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

Western capitals and Kyiv accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of unprovoked aggression.

Battle for Maiupol

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said troops in the pulverised port of Mariupol were still fighting on Sunday, despite a Russian demand to surrender.

“The city still has not fallen,” he told ABC’s This Week programme, adding that Ukrainian soldiers continued to control some parts of the southeastern city.

Russia said on Saturday it had control of urban areas, though some Ukrainian fighters remained in the Azovstal steelworks, one of Europe’s biggest metallurgical plants, which cover more than 11 sq km and overlook the Sea of Azov.

On the eve of the war, Mariupol was the biggest city still held by Ukrainian authorities in the Donbas, which Moscow has demanded that Ukraine cede to pro-Russian separatists.

Taking Mariupol would unite Russian forces on two of the main axes of the invasion, and free them up to join an expected new offensive against the main Ukrainian force in the east.

Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works company and buildings damaged in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 18, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

On the streets of Mariupol, small groups of bodies were lined up under colourful blankets, surrounded by shredded trees and scorched buildings.

Residents, some pushing bicycles, picked their way around destroyed tanks and civilian vehicles while Russian soldiers checked the documents of motorists.

One resident, Irina, was evacuating with a niece wounded in the shelling.

“I hope they will rebuild (Mariupol). The most important thing is utility systems. Summer will pass fast and in winter it will be hard,” she said.

Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said street fighting had begun between Ukrainian and Russian troops and he repeated a plea for people to evacuate.

Russian forces advanced overnight and had taken Kreminna, he said in a television speech, adding that authorities could no longer take people out of the town.

He said four civilians were shot dead while trying to flee by car from Kreminna. Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Ukraine and Russia have failed to agree about humanitarian convoys for the evacuation of civilians from war-affected areas for the second day, Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

“For security reasons, it was decided not to open humanitarian corridors today,” Vereshchuk said on Telegram app.

About 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country, cities have been shattered and thousands have died since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.

The economic damage is significant. Shmyhal said Ukraine’s budget deficit was about $5 billion a month and urged Western governments for more financial aid.